Police want to close Birkenhead bar following multiple violent incidents

Police want to close a bar a man once threatened to smash up with snooker balls.

Sue’s Bar on Argyle Street in Birkenhead is subject to a licence review after a request was made by Merseyside Police due to “serious incidents and violent disorder occurring at the premises as well as frequent breaches of the conditions attached to the Premises Licence.”

At a Wirral Council licensing hearing on 21 September, the police argued the licence for the bar should be revoked, though the bar manager Susan McIlroy had told the council in an email that she planned to close the bar anyway.

Both police as well as Wirral environmental health and licensing officers criticised the management of the bar for failing to tackle crime issues but also impacting residents in the surrounding area, particularly around noise. Ms McIlroy did not attend the licensing hearing but sent an email to council officers rebutting some of the claims.

Merseyside Police outlined 16 incidents that took place between September 2022 and September 2023 that took place in or around the premises. These related to violence, drunkenness and drugs, sexual assaults, and two reports of spiking.

Criticisms were also made by the police of the company employed by Ms McIlroy for the bar’s door staff, Storm Secure. Police accused door staff of lying over one incident involving drugs.

Four of these incidents were reported to the police though in an email to council officers, Ms McIlroy argued some were unrelated to the bar. She also pointed to no evidence backing up a report made to the police about a staff member taking drugs and people weren’t allowed to drink outside the bar.

On September 4, 2022, a 999 call was made by a staff member that “an aggressive drunken male threatened to smash the pub up” and was swinging snooker balls in a sock around. Police said the man had been deemed to be drunk before the incident and questioned why he had been served or allowed into the bar.

Another incident six days later saw another 999 call following an attack of four men on one man with punches and kicks to the head. The following day, an ambulance called to report a female had been spiked at the bar and had been drinking since 5pm.

Police said this wasn’t reported by Ms McIlroy or staff members despite them being fully aware. That same night another incident occurred between two groups of men.

In October, a 999 call was received from a victim who was knocked out from a punch to the face. According to police, door staff did not stop the offender and it was not reported.

On November 20, 2022, police received a call from bar staff after a drunken male was removed by bar staff. Police said, “They were fearful and needed back up. When police arrived, the offender had left and staff had no details of the victim.”

Later that month, a male was assaulted by three or four men following a commotion that started inside the bar. Outside the premises, his arm was broken in three places. Police said that Ms McIlroy had initially refused to provide the CCTV but McIlroy in her email to Wirral Council said she was unsure where the assault took place and it was not linked to the bar.

An issue regularly raised by police with bar staff was the fact the CCTV on the premises was only recording for 17 out of 31 days. This was first raised on October 21, 2022 but was not fixed until January 13, 2023.

Police said they were unable to find CCTV footage of the incident involving the broken arm as it was only recording for 17 days at this time.

On 3 December, a female was reportedly kicking off and had assaulted, attacked and been abusive to one of the door staff in particular. Police said it seemed she was under the influence of a large amount of alcohol.

On 1 April, 2023, a passing taxi driver reported “a male had been removed by door staff because he has been aggressive to staff and customers inside the premises.” Door staff reportedly tried to restrain the man who threw his partner to the ground.

Police said the man “smelled heavily of alcohol, his eyes were glazed, his speech was slurred.” They said he shouted abusive language at one police officer calling them a “balding c*** and kn**head.”

On 20 May, a nearby resident complained of excessive noise coming from the bar but was reportedly told to buy some ear plugs. On 11 June, police received an anonymous report of drugs involving a staff member but no evidence including CCTV backed up this claim.

In June, a spiking incident was reported by a medical professional. The person had reportedly been drinking in Sue’s Bar when she began to feel dizzy and sick. The person was later raped elsewhere and the incident had a significant effect on her mental health according to police.

Police accused Ms McIlroy of being obstructive when they asked to review CCTV following this incident. After this police visit, a warning letter and action plan was issued.

Ms McIlroy said she had tried to cooperate with police, calling three times back after missing a call. One time she was asleep upstairs in the flat above the bar.

She said, “Due to not being aware police were coming to collect the CCTV, at the end of the living room, I was asleep when they entered.

“However I asked them to leave the room and get some clothes on, to which they refused.”

On 25 June, a 999 call was received from a victim who had their teeth knocked out. Ms McIlroy argued this incident was unrelated to Sue’s Bar in her email and police accepted the incident might not be directly linked.

On 5 August, a man was attacked by five other men in “a large scale fight” that left the man knocked out, suffering a broken ankle, and a pool of blood on the pavement.

Door staff apparently watched the incident unfold and no incident was reported. The final incident on 2 September was a man who was suffering from acute behavioural disturbance on the street near Sue’s Bar. He was found with two bags of cocaine and one bag of ketamine.

Police said door staff had lied and said that the man had not been inside the bar. However police said that CCTV showed the man inside the premises 20 minutes earlier taking drugs,

Environmental health officers said they had visited the premises following complaints from neighbours about “unacceptable” noise who had considered moving away. Officers said there were seven cases and noise had been heard through the structure of the building.

Testing done by the council also showed noise levels between seven and 15 decibels higher than what was permitted.

Andrew Bushell, licensing operations manager for the council said the public should be able to visit Wirral’s night time economy witnessing or being caught up in violence.

He suggested it might have been a conscious decision not to report incidents to the police and argued there was no regard for customer safety at the bar. He believed the council should remove Ms McIlroy as licence holder as she was “not capable of running the premises in a responsible manner.”

Mr Bushell said, “No reasonable person would question the necessity of reporting incidents to the police,” adding: “This demonstrates a lack of regard to public safety by not contacting the police as quickly as possible.”

Wirral Council will now make a decision whether to change the licence, revoke it entirely, or look to keep it as it is.

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